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#169563 - 12/31/19 12:11 PM On Sexual Morality and Civilization
jryan Offline

Registered: 06/08/07
Posts: 8600
Loc: Oakton VA
Why Sexual Morality May be Far More Important than You Ever Thought

A few days ago I finished studying Sex and Culture for the second time. It is a remarkable book summarizing a lifetime of research by Oxford social anthropologist J.D. Unwin.[1] The 600+ page book is, in Unwin’s words, only a “summary” of his research—seven volumes would be required to lay it all out.[2] His writings suggest he was a rationalist, believing that science is our ultimate tool of inquiry (it appears he was not a religious man). As I went through what he found, I was repeatedly reminded of the thought I had as a philosophy student: some moral laws may be designed to minimize human suffering and maximize human flourishing long term.

Unwin examines the data from 86 societies and civilizations to see if there is a relationship between sexual freedom and the flourishing of cultures. What makes the book especially interesting is that we in the West underwent a sexual revolution in the late 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s and are now in a position to test the conclusions he arrived at more than 40 years earlier.

Unwin’s cultural categories...

I will direct you to the link to read the whole article. It is an interesting piece.

In summary, the article discusses an old sociological study by J.D. Unwin that found that there was a direct correlation between strict sexual morality and the growth of culture and civilization while also finding that a culture that turns away from sexual morality collapses withing 3 generations.

In Unwin's study he determined a "generation" to be about 30 years.

More interesting, I find, is that his study found that this morality was not "make the rules you like and stick with it" form of morality that many think of today. He found specific correlation between abstinence before marriage, monogamy, and lifelong marriage and positive growth within a culture, while polygamy and absolute sexual freedom caused decline.

There is some discussion towards the end of the article about theoretical causation that is interesting, but what I immediately began to ponder was this: If such a correlation does exist, it is more than a little amazing that humanity seemed to have sussed it out long before Unwin, since such rules are coded into almost every social and religious doctrine from the beginning of recorded history.

It also asks the question whether just having standards is more important than actually adhering to them. There have certainly been periods in the pre-sexual revolution era where Western Elites cared little privately for the cultural moral standards, but were generally interested in maintaining the appearance of morality in public.

I would guess -- again, if the theory holds true -- that such a period of acceptable sexual immorality in private is a precursor to the eventual abandonment of a moral standard, the asymptomatic stage of the civilization's disease.

Edited by jryan (12/31/19 12:14 PM)
“Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts” - Richard Feynman

#169564 - 12/31/19 03:29 PM Re: On Sexual Morality and Civilization [Re: jryan]
Peter McKenna Offline
old hand

Registered: 06/07/13
Posts: 1167
Loc: Louisiana
Excellent article jryan. Anthropologists have signaled that we may well be at an inflection point in our country’s history caused by the advancement of modern liberal mores. RE: an estimated 40 million abortions prosecuted in America, the vast majority in the service of modern liberal sexual behavior. The enlarging of government services, de-emphasis of religion, and greater centralization of populations, resulting in loss of community, and loss of emphasis on the nuclear family.

The rise of social media may be exacerbating a civilizational decline due to an effective isolation of the young from personal contact and the insertion and adoption of liberal mores into youth awareness.


Edited by Peter McKenna (12/31/19 04:13 PM)
Peter McKenna

#169565 - 12/31/19 06:36 PM Re: On Sexual Morality and Civilization [Re: Peter McKenna]
CPD Offline

Registered: 04/07/06
Posts: 263
Loc: Lorain County, Ohio, USA
Wow, that's a jaw-dropper. Unwin's conclusions dovetail right into N. Taleb's assertion that religions provide necessary cultural heuristics that make a culture "Lindy" (prone to last). Thanks for posting!
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. —Samuel Beckett

#169596 - 01/07/20 11:55 PM Re: On Sexual Morality and Civilization [Re: CPD]
Dan Simmons Administrator Offline
CEO of the Hegemony

Registered: 09/02/05
Posts: 11210
Loc: Colorado
Dan Simmons comments:

I'll join in the thanking of our friend jryan for posting information from Unwin's book (I almost wrote "seminal research", but didn't want to be accused of using a crude pun) on the effect of changing (disappearing?) sexual mores on the general culture.

Of the various factors, I find the huge rise in the number of abortions -- and its wide acceptance in the culture now -- as the most powerful single element in the change of our (and Western) culture. I don't write about this on our forum here or on Facebook not only because it's too reflexively explosive, but because it's too important an issue to me personally. I actually believe that future generations (not only of Americans) will look back on this century and our cultures of easy and frequent abortions with a moral disapprobation similar only to our view of the Holocaust era now.

Someday I may talk about how and why I've long been pro-life -- not only in terms of hating the acceptance of abortions, but in terms of opposing war, capital punishment, legal euthanasia, rising suicide rates and the like. But not now.

Right now I'll thank jryan again and look forward to what I truly trust (and believe) will be another civil and informative dialogue here on our little forum. (Heaven knows that I always learn a lot from these discussions.)

-- DS

#169621 - 01/17/20 07:54 PM Re: On Sexual Morality and Civilization [Re: Dan Simmons]
ColinFraizer Online   content

Registered: 12/15/13
Posts: 133
Loc: Indiana, USA
I, for one, would very much like to hear Mr. Simmons's "how and why".

As a father of three living children, abortion—especially late-term abortion—is heart-breaking to me. (Aside.Some of you may know my oldest daughter, another fan of Dan Simmons who sometimes posts about his work here, on Twitter, and on Reddit. While we were expecting the birth of our youngest, somewhat early in the pregnancy, my wife experienced a miscarriage. She called and we soon rendezvoused at the OB's office, already feeling the grief of this loss from our little family. The doctor performed an ultrasound—the first for this pregnancy—to make sure there was no further danger to my wife's health. And we discovered that she was carrying a second (paternal) twin, whom we now know as our youngest daughter, a middle-schooler. It was an emotionally-confusing experience, knowing that a child we had hoped to welcome to the world had died, but then finding we would indeed be adding a new little person to our lives.)

I also hate war and have come to oppose capital punishment—I do not believe the state can be trusted with the power to kill even the worst among us.

I admire the bravery Mr. Simmons shows by mentioning opposition to legal euthanasia. I find it terrifyingly dangerous. There is, IMHO, an almost death-worshipping undercurrent in the culture today, especially amongst health professionals. One need not search hard to find examples of how legal euthanasia has been frequently abused to end the lives that some find unworthy of continuing. Some of the weakest members of society—the old, handicapped, or mentally unwell—are often murdered by family and caregivers who tell themselves and others that they act out of compassion. [Yes, I know that there are people who actually choose to die and are unable to take such action for themselves. I mean "euthanasia" that has not been explicitly and clearly chosen by its target.]

In Mr. Simmons's books, I have sensed his opposition to suicide. Both my wife and I have experienced long-term, recurrent struggles against clinical depression and I'm endlessly grateful that neither of us has indulged that black urge. It has been a close-run thing more than once.

Edited by ColinFraizer (01/17/20 07:55 PM)

#169623 - 01/19/20 07:25 PM Re: On Sexual Morality and Civilization [Re: ColinFraizer]
Enright Online   content
Super User

Registered: 05/17/06
Posts: 3582
Loc: CA
 Originally Posted By: ColinFraizer
I, for one, would very much like to hear Mr. Simmons's "how and why".
. . .

In Mr. Simmons's books, I have sensed his opposition to suicide. Both my wife and I have experienced long-term, recurrent struggles against clinical depression and I'm endlessly grateful that neither of us has indulged that black urge. It has been a close-run thing more than once.

Loved your entire post, so just quoting this small part here to make reading easier. As far as suicide is concerned, as I look at it, the opportunities to not be around seem rather extensive, in that if one died, a million years or even a trillion could pass and you'd still not be around. In fact you'd just be getting started at not being around, and a googol of years could pass and you might begin to wonder if you packed enough water for the journey. Since a lifetime is such a precious flash, what's the hurry? You'll get there.

#169624 - 01/19/20 09:02 PM Re: On Sexual Morality and Civilization [Re: Enright]
ColinFraizer Online   content

Registered: 12/15/13
Posts: 133
Loc: Indiana, USA
Thanks, Jim. Given the sudden, protracted silence on the DSF, I was beginning to feel as if I had loudly farted.

ObligatoryDS: Having greatly enjoyed Special Agent D(an Simmons)'s The Crook Factory, I decided to make this week a "DS Double Header", so I just started The Fifth Heart. The first chapter—beautifully written, as you might expect—is, well, less than cheery in its subject matter.

#169625 - 01/20/20 04:25 PM Re: On Sexual Morality and Civilization [Re: ColinFraizer]
Ward Offline

Registered: 03/02/09
Posts: 1360
Regarding The Fifth Heart---it is my favorite book of Dan's and I've read and loved them all. I especially enjoyed chapter 6.

Regarding death----WC Field's summed it up for me. He reportedly has written on his grave stone "All things considered, I'd rather be in Philadelphia".

#169629 - Yesterday at 06:01 PM Re: On Sexual Morality and Civilization [Re: ColinFraizer]
jmill Offline
Full Shrike

Registered: 04/01/06
Posts: 5693

You weren't purposely ignored, Colin. I wrote a post in response about a week ago, and then accidentally deleted it! I didn't have the energy at the time to recreate the post.

Suffice to say, my experience with suicide is limited to only a couple of instances, but what I gleaned from that exposure is that suicide didn't make anything better. I can understand that the person who commits the act may feel that they have no choice, and I won't argue with that. You can't truly know what is in anyone else's head, but the effects on others were so devastating that I had to question why. I find it heartbreaking that people can be in that much pain and feel that they have no alternative. (I'm not talking about people in terminal medical conditions suffering from immense and unrelievable pain. While I still don't feel that suicide is the best option under those circumstances, I won't argue against it, only say that I don't want the government making those kinds of decisions for people.)

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